We all talk to ourselves from time to time, especially when facing a challenge. Reciting self-affirmations can help us focus our thoughts and persevere. New research shows that it is not only what you say, but how you say it that impacts your ultimate success.
A team of professors from the University of Illinois and University of Southern Mississippi decided to look at how the ways of phrasing self-motivation impact the outcome. They hoped to determine whether asking a question of oneself would be more helpful than making an assertion to oneself. They decided to focus on the phrases “Will I…?” and “I will…” to settle their debate between the power of interrogative and declarative statements.
While intuitively it might seem that a statement like “I will succeed” would have a stronger impact than a less certain question of “Will I succeed?”, the data revealed the opposite to be true. The professors conducted a series of multiple mini experiments with about fifty subjects apiece. They instructed the participants to solve a number of anagrams; prior to completing the word puzzles, however, half of the group asked themselves “Will I solve the anagrams?” while the other half said “I will solve the anagrams.” Each time this test was conducted with slight variations, the people who asked themselves a question as a form of self-motivation outperformed their declarative counterparts.
The researchers believe that the reason for these results is that when people ask themselves a question, they are constructing self-motivation. These questions issue a challenge to the asker, provoking them to set higher goals and defeat their own sense of doubt.
When confronting a daunting situation, speak up and let your inner-monologue lend some encouragement. You are not crazy if you talk to yourself – it is only crazy to not do so! Next time you turn to self-affirmation as a form of motivation, you will know how to phrase your words to maximize their impact. Better yet – will you know how to phrase your self-motivation for maximum impact?